William Cumming dead at 93; artist helped bring national attention to the Puget Sound
By GABRIELLE NOMURA
Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer
December 2, 2010 · Updated 7:25 PM
Former Eastside art teacher and local celebrity in the art world, William "Bill" Cumming, died Nov. 22 of congestive heart failure. He was 93.
Cumming was the longest-standing member of what the national media had dubbed "The Northwest School" composed of local painters who were well known during the 1930s and 40s. Combing the area's natural surroundings and sometimes Asian aesthetics, the Northwest School gained national attention when Life Magazine wrote an article about Cumming and his contemporaries, Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson.
Inspired by artists such as ballerina painter, Degas, Cumming was well known for the motion in his often childlike figures, painting gesturally as opposed to realistically, said Karen Abel, executive director of ArtsEast.
"The vivd color of his work, the energy, are a good reflection of his energy and his personality," Abel said.
And what a personality he was.
The eccentric, outspoken and self-proclaimed "Willie Nelson of Northwest Painting," who loved the ladies (7 wives total), was beloved by many of his students including Deborah Freng, who first took one of Cumming's art classes in Kirkland when she was 10.
Cumming taught at various regional art programs, as well as at the Art Institute of Seattle, The Burnley School of Professional Art and The Cornish School of Allied Arts. His work has been shown at Bellevue Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum and The Frye Art Museum.
"Memories of Bill I cherish most: He had fun painting, he wasn't afraid to use color, he really did wear a cowboy hat and boots, and he never seemed to take life too seriously," Freng said.Contact Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer Gabrielle Nomura at email@example.com or 425-453-4602.